The Jets have gained the 11th most yardage in the NFL on offense. On paper that is very good. A closer examination reveals an offense that is not quite as productive as meets the eye. The Jets only average 5.4 yards per play, tied for 19th in the league. They only average 19.8 points per game, tied for 25th in the league.
There are many obvious culprits from Geno Smith to the red zone offense. These factors have certainly been at play, but there are ways in which a lack of impact players on this roster are at the root of the problem.
I have seen a few people argue that close losses to Green Bay, Chicago, and Detroit are an indication talent is not an issue. There is probably some truth to that. The Jets did have enough talent to keep those games close. Here are some other things to consider. The Texans picked first in the Draft. Last season they had the talent to play 11 games decided by one score last season. The Redskins picked second. They had the talent to play 9 games decided by one score. Like the Texans, the 4-12 Buccaneers played a one score game against the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. The Raiders played a one score game against the Jets just a few weeks ago.
In the NFL most teams have adequate talent to win an individual game or at least keep it close. Talent or a lack thereof manifest themselves in many ways, however. This brings me to something I have noticed.
I took a look at Jets scoring drives. Calculating by hand, I figured that they have lasted an average of 8.93 plays so far in 2014. Is this the recipe for a good offense? To find out I decided to calculate the average scoring drive for teams averaging top ten in points scored.
So nine of the ten are averaging less plays per scoring drive than the Jets. It cuts deeper. The Jets actually have more scoring drives of 10 plays or more than everybody on this list except the Colts and the Cowboys. How about quick drives? The Jets have 5 scoring drives of 7 plays or less. The rest of the list?
These might seem like small differences at first, but remember it is early in the season and how close many games are in the NFL.
What am I getting at? The Jets have to work harder to score than the other teams. This is where the lack of big play ability shows. It's a lot easier to score when you have players capable of ripping off big gains or drawing penalties. The Jets don't have enough players who can consistently make game-changing plays. It's really tough to execute 10 times or more on a single drive. The margin for error is small. That's the situation you run into, however, when David Nelson and Jeff Cumberland are leading your team in snaps among skill players. It's much easier to execute a few times for moderate gains and get big chunks in other areas.
The lack of game changing talent doesn't just show on offense. Some of these quick drives are the result of the defense providing the offense a short field. That means players with the skill to force game-changing turnovers. There aren't enough on the defense. The Jets have just 7 points off turnovers. The top ten?
That includes touchdowns the defense actually scores, but that doesn't diminish the point. Say you need to score 24 points to win a given football game. A defensive score makes life easier on the offense. The offense only has to score 17. The Jets aren't getting those turnovers. The same goes for special teams. The Eagles have a pair of touchdowns and the Falcons one.
So, yes, the Jets do have enough talent to win week to week. It is difficult to not in the NFL. But the lack of talent makes things a lot more difficult. The inability to make big game-changing plays limits the margin for error. A team like the Jets needs to string together a bunch of 10 play drives. The top offenses in the league mostly don't have to execute at that level.
This brings me to one of the issues I have with John Idzik's approach to building this team. Some speculate he's waiting to spend his money because the Jets couldn't contend this year even if he did. I reject this theory. Look at the AFC East. Look at the way the Jets' front seven could be a difficult matchup for the top teams in the conference built around passing attacks. Without deficiencies at the skill positions and cornerback, the Jets would be a very difficult matchup for many of them.
Even if we ascribe to this theory, the long-term building is made a lot more viable by the young quarterback developing. If winning isn't the only goal this year, it certainly should have been doing everything possible to make Geno Smith flourish. Now Geno has shown significant mechanical and decision-making issues that might have been present even with a better supporting cast. The question remains. Why was the team built in a way that demands so much from the quarterback. This stretch Geno is in might have been easier to weather with more talent making big plays to paper over the mistakes. This doesn't even touch on Geno's confidence. It looks all gone. Maybe it wouldn't be if there was more for him to rely upon and his mistakes weren't so difficult to recover from. When other guys have to hit on 5 to 7 plays, Geno's team needs to hit on 10 or more. That's a lot to put on him.
If you want to complain about certain elements of execution and coaching, I'm right there with you. There are definite problems. Just realize the product on the field each Sunday leaves them with little room for error. Most Sundays the opponent has to be less precise to win.